I must admit my first real contact as a fan with composer Waldo De Los Rios was not as a film music composer but as more of an arranger when his upbeat version of Mozart’s 40th symphony entered the British charts and subsequently reached the number one slot in that chart back in the early 1970,s. The album on A and M records which contained the composers own unique arrangements of classical works by the Masters also attained the number one position in the UK and remained there for some time. I also remember seeing a window size poster of De Los Rios on display in the HMV store main front window in London next to smaller display advertising David Bowie, so that’s how popular he was during that period in the UK. A TOWN CALLED HELL or A TOWN CALLED BASTARD as it was screened under in the UK cinemas was a movie that had a short run at the picture houses, and I did not manage to see it. I was under the impression for a number of years that it was one of those American produced westerns made in the style of a spaghetti, along the lines of LANDRAIDERS or HANG EM HIGH attempting to cash in on what the Italians had done with something that was essentially of American origin, but then discovered it was a Spanish production (a Paella western) and regretted not seeing it on the big screen. Something that was remedied later I am glad to say when the video became available, it was then I also discovered that De Los Rios had written the score, and soon added it to my then large list of soundtracks I thought should be released. De los Rios, I think did an admirable job of scoring the movie, he was after all in a difficult position, on one side there was the Italian or spaghetti style of scoring a western which was gaining more and more recognition and popularity and on the other the more traditional Hollywood approach of what was conceived to be western/cowboy music. Both being admired by collectors for their own unique flavours and colours, what De Los Rios achieved I think was a perfect equilibrium between the two styles, and at the same time remaining original as well infusing his own highly imaginative and appealing technique. Track one is a stirring opening to the compact disc and is totally martial in its style and sound the composer utilizing timpani alone to create a march of sorts that although brief is attention grabbing.
Track 2 is one of the longest on the disc weighing in at almost 5 minutes, this is an overture of sorts containing a number of the scores principal themes and includes booming and stirring percussion, subtle use of organ, sparse utilization of strings, a sprinkling of sombre and upbeat sounding brass, wistful almost windswept woodwinds with choir and guitar adding their support. Track three is the actual theme from the movie, again short lived but effective and haunting, De Los Rios combining male voices with a lone electric guitar and underlined by strings building in volume and also tension towards the end of the cue, the composers use of choir being similar to that of composer Kristophe Komeda, using voices as actual instrumentation as opposed to being a background to the performance. There are a few atonal and dare I say un-musical tracks within the score, some of which are cleverly enhanced by the composers use of reverb and electronic assistance, which includes I think what is a brief musical stab or two performed upon an Ondes Martenot, but saying this there is even within these examples little interludes that include motifs, and snatches of themes, which seem to come out of nowhere and thus are an unexpected and pleasant surprise, the tracks becoming more interesting and taking on a transformation to be even more enjoyable because of their presence. Overall A TOWN CALLED HELL is a very good score and one that I would recommend you purchase. Sound quality is variable but for the most part good, and for a score that is nearly 40 years old sounds pretty chipper to me.
The second disc in this two CD set is SAVAGE PAMPAS again music is by Waldo De Los Rios, and again the composer has produced a riveting and powerful work. Originally issued on a long playing record(which became a rare item very quickly) the soundtrack also has been around on a bootleg CDR which was an LP transfer for a few years. The music in this case is certainly potent and the way in which the composer employs choir within the work is highly original and effective. The composer combines proud and patriotic sounding choir with commanding and driving percussion which is underlined and enhanced by the use of equally authoritative strings that are embellished further by strumming guitars, assorted brass and windswept sounding woods. The compact disc includes 10 tracks and 8 of these are generous in their running time, the shortest being just over 5 minutes and the longest running for nearly 12 minutes Track 4, is for me one of the highlights of the score and this recording it is filled with rich and rhythmic compositions that are the essence and the core of De Los Rios’s infectios and rousing score. Sound quality is very good, and the entire package is presented with a sumptuous and informative booklet that contains informative notes on each movie and lengthy information on the composer, plus numerous stills from the movies, photographs of De Los Rios and poster art also. This is a must have compact disc and will enrich any film music collection. Recommended.